It’s been a long year of change in the comics industry, and New York Comic Con feels like the end point of an arduous but rewarding journey. We were just doing a search for blog posts about the show and already found fairly fascinating two think pieces that show the ascendance of nerd culture as a boon — or a threat, depending on how you view it.
Simon Pulman has a blog called Transmythology, devoted to transmedia storytelling, and his take on the con presents a thoughtful view unencumbered by the kind of fretting most comics types have:
One final thing that struck me as strange about digital comics: apparently, Marvel views digital comics as a way to drive traffic back to the comic book store. Its hope is that people will read a comic on the iPad, become intrigued by the story, and begin buying physical books; it even structures special offers around this concept. I still cannot believe that this is actually Marvel’s business plan – I’m quite confused to be honest. To me, they are saying to readers “now that you’ve enjoyed this conveniently accessible, digitally malleable version of the story, please drive to the comic book store to buy the physical copy of the next issue – for more money.” That seems incredibly backward to me, and I’d love for somebody to explain to me why it’s not.
Beyond nailing the circular thinking behind a lot of the industry. Pulman was impressed by Artists Alley:
I have two general impressions from Artist’s Alley. The first is that these creatives are in the same state as most of the representatives from the big brands: they know that digital and multi-platform storytelling are going to be important, but they have absolutely no idea how. The second is that there are far more skilled artists than storytellers in the independent space. Most of the comics I looked at featured exquisite artwork married with clunky dialogue, uninteresting plotting and (more often than you’d think) uncomfortable themes. Therefore, I would suggest that seasoned storytellers have a great opportunity to partner with skilled artists to collaborate on something new – and great.
And then we have IGN’s Michael Thomsen with Medium Anxiety: Culture Shock at New York Comic Con — Thomsen must have been really traumatized by the show because he found its cacophony of fandoms, images and ideas quite alarming:
While comic books are fundamental, they have evolved into one of the most obscure of all the forms of human creativity. Walking through the clustered halls of New York Comic Con, the East Coast’s biggest celebration of all things nerd, I can’t get away from the impression of a community stuck in a loop, speaking to itself in idioms that seem to have long ago lost their power. This is the world of cosplayers, high-detail miniatures, crates of old comics, and rows of new ons—most of which offer escapist parables in high fantasy, science fiction, spandex super powers, or reinterpretations of anthropomorphic manga cuties. These are the ugly stereotypes that give weight to the worst interpretations of “nerd” and “dork.” And yet, taking NYCC as a reasonable representation of what comics have to offer, the stereotype is more true than not. Comic books are juvenile, vulgar, mimetic, and fixated on escapist tropes of the most impersonal scale. That’s not all comics have to offer but it’s an ugly majority.
It’s a rather unfocused essay, but in the end Thomsen finds more honesty in the clash:
NYCC is a celebration of the opposite kind–a sacrifice of the self to the most superficial and extreme aesthetics of comic books. It’s constrictive, a knot of human ostentation in which movement is slowed to crawl, happening in small spasms the same way food passes through your intestines. When I finally pushed my way out the Javits Center doors I heard a familiar song. At the end of the block there was a man in jeans, t-shirt, and a Boba Fett helmet playing the Superman theme on an accordion. On the next block, three teenage boys with swag bags sat on a curb by a McDonald’s drive-thru laughing at two pigeons violently pecking each other over a dropped French fry. I wonder if they’d like Persepolis? I hope so.
Was this really Nerd-pocalypse? It was something, alright. Without all the movie star stuff from San Diego to distract attendees, this was the most epic assault of nerd culture yet foisted upon America.
More to come.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.